Catching Up

November 10, 2015

I’m back from a little vacation and a lot has happened. Let’s get caught up.

The Mariners made their first trade under new GM Jerry Dipoto.

On Thursday afternoon the Mariners announced that they traded Brad Miller, Danny Farquhar, and Logan Morrison to the Tampa Bay Rays.

In return, Seattle received major league starting pitcher Nathan Karns, Triple-A reliever C.J. Riefenhauser, and outfield prospect Boog Powell.

Karns provides some much-needed starting pitching depth and figures to slot into the back of the Mariners rotation. Riefenhauser is a lefty who has had a few cups of coffee in the big leagues and should get a chance to crack the Mariners big league bullpen.

Unlike his namesake, Powell is a speedy outfielder who has posted strong on-base percentages in the minor leagues. The 22-year-old had a great first half at the Double-A level for the Rays last year – he was on the Montgomery Biscuits! – and then his numbers came down during a two-month stint at Triple-A Durham. He figures to open the 2016 season with Tacoma, and will hopefully be ready for the majors at some point during the summer.

The big loss in the trade is Miller, who I still believe can become a productive major leaguer. Farquhar struggled in Seattle last year and ended up spending a lot of time with Tacoma, and the arbitration-eligible Morrison was unlikely to be tendered a contract for 2016 by the Mariners.

This trade indicates Dipoto was serious when he said he wants to build a team this fits Safeco Field. He picked up a speedy, contact-hitting outfield prospect in Powell and jettisoned Logan Morrison – making it appear as if we’ll be looking at first baseman Mark Trumbo and DH Nelson Cruz next year. The team needs more outfielders, though.

Also the trade apparently shows that they like what they saw from Ketel Marte and are going to move forward with him as the starting shortstop. Unless they trade for another shortstop – the offseason is still young.

Seattle claimed outfielder Daniel Robertson off waivers.

The short, quick outfielder had a pair of real strong seasons in the PCL for Tucson in 2012 and 2013, and last year tailed off a bit for Salt Lake. He’s been in the majors with both the Texas Rangers and the LA Angels, and now he’ll try to cross another AL West team off his list.

Robertson has minor league options remaining. He’ll either make the Mariners as an extra outfielder or we’ll be seeing him here at Cheney Stadium.

The minor league free agent list was released.

Here is a list of Mariners players who have six full years of minor league service and are not on the 40-man roster. They are now free agents:

RHP: Oliver Garcia (AA), Moises Hernandez (AA), Luis Jimenez (DSL), J.C. Ramirez (AAA), Kyle Schepel (AAA), Richard Vargas (AA), Chien-Ming Wang (AAA)
LHP: Joselito Cano (SS), Anthony Fernandez (AA), James Gillheeney (AA), Lucas Luetge (AAA)
C: Carlton Tanabe (Hi A)
1B: Ji-Man Choi (AAA), Patrick Leyland (Lo A), Aderlin Rodriguez (AA)
3B: Leury Bonilla (AAA), Jordy Lara (AA)
OF: Arby Fields (Lo A), Burt Reynolds (Lo A)

The free agents who spent the most time with Tacoma are J.C. Ramirez, Chien-Ming Wang, James Gillheeney, Lucas Luetge, Ji-Man Choi, and Leury Bonilla.

The Mariners could re-sign any of these guys – I’m sure they’ll re-sign Leury Bonilla, who has been a free agent and re-signed each of the last two winters.

Choi is an interesting case. He was once on the Mariners 40-man roster, but he barely played last year due to a broken leg suffered in spring training. Choi is currently playing for Tacoma manager Pat Listach down in the Dominican Winter League. Listach and Mariners scouts will be checking on his progress to see if they want to re-sign him.

Coaching Shuffle

The Mariners announced that first base/infield coach (and former Rainiers shortstop) Chris Woodward opted to not return for 2016, saying he wanted to be closer to his family in Florida. He jumped right into coaching as soon as his lengthy playing career ended three years ago, and never took that time off at home to be with the kids more. Look for him to be either coaching for one of the Florida teams or working in a roving/scouting capacity which allows him to spend some time at home during the season.

Meanwhile, there are reports that the M’s are bringing in former major league manager Manny Acta as the third base coach. This has the appearance of a good hire: the Mariners need another Latin American on the coaching staff, and the Dominican Acta is highly respected in the game.

Even with Acta, the Mariners still need a first base coach who can work with the infielders. Listach would be a logical fit, but he’s still getting to know all of the new faces around here just like everybody else.

Sacramento pitcher Tommy Hanson passed away.

The former Atlanta Braves starter fell into a coma and passed away yesterday. Hanson pitched for both Salt Lake and Sacramento in the PCL, and he made two starts at Cheney Stadium last year.

Our condolences to his family and friends. Twenty-nine is far too young.


* OK, ok, you probably didn’t hear it here first.

Warm Up Those Stoves

November 4, 2015


The “Hot Stove League” is upon us, as baseball’s offseason is officially underway.

At the major league level, 139 players were declared free agents and are available to test the open market starting on Saturday. Included are three Seattle Mariners: Joe Beimel, Franklin Gutierrez, and Hisashi Iwakuma.

Prior to Saturday, the Mariners can present a “Qualifying Offer” to a free agent, which is a one-year contract for a whopping total of $15.8 million. The player then gets to decide if he wants to accept it, or continue on to free agency.

Of the three Mariners free agents, only Iwakuma prices out as a possibility to receive a Qualifying Offer. That is required to happen by Friday, if it does.

As detailed in the links below, Iwakuma is an important piece for the Mariners for next season. If they don’t re-sign him, they will be forced to pursue another free agent to replace him.

On the Triple-A front, veteran (at least six full seasons in the minors) Tacoma Rainiers players who are not on the Mariners 40-man roster can become free agents on Friday. We’ll try to keep track of the minor league free agents throughout the winter, as this is how the Rainiers get some of their key players each season.

Coming up on the calendar, the major league General Manager meetings are next week – so we’ll start to hear some rumors of trades and free agent signings.

In about two weeks the teams have to set their 40-man rosters in advance of the Rule 5 Draft. It’s always interesting to see which minor league prospects the Mariners value enough to put on the roster.

Then the Baseball Winter Meetings are held December 7-10. Much to the joy of everyone in the game (<– sarcasm font), the meetings are in Nashville once again this year.

We’ll be following along all winter here on the blog, keeping you updated on current and former Rainiers and Mariners players who are on the move.


  • Ryan Divish has an offseason primer.
  • Keeping Hisashi Iwakuma is an immediate priority for the Mariners, Bob Dutton writes.
  • Dutton has more on the Iwakuma qualifying offer process and a look at free agents who might tempt the Mariners.
  • Here’s an update on M’s players in the various winter leagues.
  • Two Rainiers players from the 2015 season (both had brief stints) made the Arizona Fall League all-star game: D.J. Peterson and David Rollins.
  • The Nashville Sounds checked their time of game trends and noticed very similar results to the ones the Rainiers had (which I wrote about a few days ago – scroll down if you need to catch up).
  • Sad news from Albuquerque, where longtime Isotopes public address announcer Stu Walker has passed away. The man had some serious pipes.
  • Meet the man who pitched for 50 different minor league teams. Fifty.
  • As you may be aware, the Rainiers business office is assisting with the reboot of the Tacoma Stars indoor soccer team. The Stars season opener is on Friday night at 7:30 at the Showare Center in Kent. If you want to check it out, tickets are available at the door or online right here.

That’s it for a few days. I’m out-of-town on a fun trip through the weekend, and I’m not even bringing the laptop. Pete Rose could get reinstated by Commissioner Manfred and hired by the Mariners to manage the Rainiers next season, and I wouldn’t have a post about it until I get home. Our next fresh post will come on Tuesday.

Royals Knighted As Champions

November 2, 2015

Congratulations to the Kansas City Royals, your 2015 World Series Champions.

It’s the first World Series championship for Kansas City since 1985, so you just know their fans are going to enjoy it after a 30-year wait.

The way they won the series was remarkable: the Royals trailed in all five games of the series, and they won three games in which they trailed in the eighth inning or later. First time that’s ever happened.

The ninth inning last night must have been excruciating for Mets fans – which I was temporarily one of, because I (pretty much as always) was rooting for the series to go seven games strictly for entertainment value.

Matt Harvey was working on his three-hit shutout, just dominating, and they were up 2-0 going to the top of the ninth. Harvey walks the leadoff man on a full count, putting him at 110 pitches.

Time to pull him out? Nope!

Then he gives up a double to Eric Hosmer on a fly ball over the left fielder’s head. Ex-Rainiers hitting coach HoJo pointed out on Twitter that the Mets weren’t playing “no doubles” in the outfield, suggesting that if the outfielders had been playing deep the ball would have been caught.

Mets closer Jeurys Familia came in from the bullpen, and Hosmer was at third with one out when Salvador Perez hit a soft grounder to drawn-in third baseman David Wright. Wright throws to first for the second out, Hosmer breaks home, and first baseman Lucas Duda throws wildly toward the general area of the plate and Hosmer easily scores the tying run.

I think at that point everybody knew the Royals were going to win the game. Which they did, with a five-run 12th inning.

“Team of destiny” is an overused sports cliché, but it just seemed like the Royals were going to win every game throughout the playoffs in the late innings. It was thrilling baseball.

Now Kansas City has to try to keep key players who can become free agents, most notably left fielder Alex Gordon who sure would look good in a Mariners uniform (note: I have no idea if the M’s are capable of adding another high-priced contract).

The offseason is upon us. We’ll map it out on Wednesday.


  • John McGrath thinks that the Royals should be the template for new Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto.
  • I swiped the Royals comeback facts from this excellent World Series write-up by Jayson Stark.
  • CJ Nitkowski also noticed the Mets didn’t play “no doubles” defense in the ninth and it cost them dearly.
  • Daniel Murphy led the Mets into the World Series, but then had a disastrous error in Game Four and another misplay in Game Five. Fangraphs has a good post on the costliest errors in World Series history. No. 1 is obvious but what are the others?
  • has posted a stroll through World Series history which includes lots of neat old photos. Make sure you have some time blocked out before clicking this link.
  • Lookout Landing posted an interview with Braden Bishop, the outfielder out of UW who was the M’s third round draft pick this year. He had a solid pro debut for Everett.
  • In the PCL we have an update on the business side of the Fresno club, which has been for sale for two years.
  • Thank goodness this Chipotle disaster didn’t happen during the summer or else we probably would have had to cancel the remainder of the minor league baseball season due to every single player being sick.

One final congrats to the Royals and their fans – including The News Tribune’s managing editor and friend-of-the-blog Dale Phelps. We’ll see you at Cheney Stadium when Omaha comes to town this summer, Dale.

The Pitch Clocks Worked

October 30, 2015

Flashback seven months to the start of the Tacoma Rainiers season, and there was a big story throughout Triple-A Baseball: the installation and use of pitch clocks.

Now that everything is said and done, and the statistics are in, it’s time to look and see if they worked.

Pace of play was a big emphasis for the 2015 season, as MLB was looking for ways to speed up play in a game that has gotten longer and longer by the decade.

Triple-A and Double-A teams were required to install clocks with counted down 20 seconds between pitches, and also had a between-inning countdown to get the teams to change sides quickly. Relief pitchers were also on the clock, forced to get on the mound and finish their warm-ups in a timely fashion.

Additional rules were put in place to speed up games. The most important rule forced batters to keep one foot in the batter’s box between pitches (unless the previous pitch had been fouled off or went wild). Umpires were told to ask batters to get in the box and keep things moving.

The changes worked.

Pacific Coast League games dropped from an average of 2:58 in 2014 to 2:45 in 2015. That’s an average of 13 minutes quicker.

Similar results were noticed in the other Triple-A and Double-A leagues, which also had the pitch clocks and new rules enforced. All games in these leagues were an average of 12 minutes quicker in 2015 compared to 2014.

Looking strictly at Tacoma games, we find very similar numbers: in 2014, nine-inning Rainiers games averaged 2:57. In 2015, that number was shaved down to 2:43.

The biggest difference was the lack of ridiculously long nine-inning games.

In 2014 Tacoma played 58 nine-inning games which lasted longer than three hours. In 2015 that number dropped to just 20.

Here’s a breakdown of the Rainiers nine-inning games which lasted over three hours:

2014 (old rules)

  • 3:00 – 3:15: 33 games
  • 3:16 – 3:30: 13 games
  • 3:31 – 3:45: 8 games
  • 3:46 – 4:00: 3 games
  • 4:01 – longer: 1 game (4:18 vs. Fresno on August 9).

2015 (new pace of play rules)

  • 3:00 – 3:15: 18 games
  • 3:16 – 3:30: 2 games
  • 3:31 – longer: none.

It’s clear the new measures worked.

The biggest question moving forward is, What do we do with these pitch clocks? Use them at all levels? Only the minors? Abolish them immediately because there are no clocks in baseball goshdarnit?

I consider myself to be a bit of a traditionalist, and once I got used to the timers I wasn’t bothered by them. In fact, I rarely even looked at them while broadcasting the games, and only mentioned them if I happened to notice that a pitcher was regularly pushing the limits. And of course I mentioned them the three or four times all season that a ball or strike was awarded by the umpire because of a batter or pitcher’s tardiness.

I’m curious to know what the fans think. If you attended a lot of Rainiers games, did you stop noticing the clocks after your first few games? Or were they something you looked at often?

The casual fan who attends two or three games a year certainly noticed them, and probably didn’t like them. I understand that – they took a while to get used to before they faded from my viewing of the game.

They worked, though. I wonder if MLB can figure out a way to maintain the improved pace of play without installing clocks in the big leagues.


  • The Mariners announced more of the structure of their new front office. Bob Dutton has the details.
  • Here an article from with additional details on how pace of play improved in the minor leagues this season.
  • Game One of the World Series had everything, Jonah Keri writes.
  • Larry Stone has a column on Redmon’s Michael Conforto, now playing in the World Series for the Mets.
  • The San Diego Padres named Andy Green as their new manager. Green won the PCL Most Valuable Player award in 2005 as a member of the Tucson Sidewinders.
  • The 1985 World Series was very memorable. If you have some time to burn, enjoy this oral history of it.
  • There is going to be a new Double-A team in the Eastern League next season: the Hartford Yard Goats. They introduced their mascots and, welp… go see for yourself.

Have a great weekend, and hopefully we’ll still have a World Series going next week!

Servais & Series Start

October 27, 2015

New Mariners manager Scott Servais was officially introduced in a press conference on Monday afternoon. You can watch the whole thing right here.

A big theme of the press conference was “togetherness.” General Manager Jerry Dipoto and Servais kept coming back to the theme of communication throughout the organization and getting input from everybody before making key decisions.

One item that came out of the press conference is that Servais managed a few games in the Angels minor league system when he was the farm director, helping out when an affiliate’s manager had to step away for a day or two. This included two PCL games for Salt Lake in 2012: he went 1-1 filling in for Bees manager Keith Johnson during a series at Colorado Springs (hat tip to Bees broadcaster Steve Klauke for the details).

The team also announced four of the major league coaches: new pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., bench coach Tim Bogar, returning hitting coach Edgar Martinez, and returning first base/infield coach Chris Woodward. They still need a third base coach, a bullpen coach, and possibly one more such as an assistant hitting coach.

The World Series starts tonight, and the we got totally shut out in terms of ex-Rainiers on the active rosters: there are no Royals or Mets who ever played for Tacoma.

The Royals have a pair of recent ex-Mariners in Kendrys Morales and pitcher Chris Young. The Mets have a Local Guy in rookie outfielder Michael Conforto.

My prediction: Royals in six games. I see this as a very evenly matched series, but the Royals excel at making contact against high-velocity pitchers and that’s what they’ll be seeing. Also, I like the fact that the Royals were in this thing last year and have “unfinished business.”


Enjoy the Series!

New Schedule, Farm Director, Manager

October 22, 2015

The Rainiers announced their 2016 home schedule with game times on Thursday afternoon. You can check it out right here. If you have trouble seeing it, click on the PDF version and you can make it as large as you want.

(This early schedule always looks weird to me, without the road games listed. The team will release a complete schedule with all road trips once all of the away game times have been received from the opponents and approved by the league).

A few notes of interest:

  • Over two-thirds of the home games come after June 1, which is good for us considering our traditional weather patterns.
  • Tacoma both opens and closes the season at home. That seems unusual to me.
  • The popular 5:05 Saturday games are back for another season. These are during the first three months of the season – in July and August, they revert back to 7:05.
  • Sixteen of the first 20 games after the all-star break are at home. On paper here in October, this looks like the best time for the team to reel off a hot streak.
  • The Rainiers close the season with (at least) eight straight games against divisional rivals. This has not been the case in recent years – I’m glad it’s back, because it increases potential drama in the playoff races.

We’re just five-and-a-half months away from starting! Wait, that seems like a long time.

The Mariners officially announced Andy McKay as their new Director of Player Development. It’s an interesting hire, as he has none of the usual background for this position.

McKay spent the last three years as the Colorado Rockies minor league “Peak Performance Coordinator.” My understanding is this was a mental skills coach / sports psychology position. Prior to that, McKay spent 14 years coaching junior college ball.

Apparently he had no previous relationship with new general manager Jerry Dipoto and simply blew him away in an interview.

McKay has a lot of interesting things to say – I encourage you to read some of the interviews in the links just below – but he’s going to need to earn the respect of his coaches during spring training. There are definitely going to be some minor league staffers thinking “I’ve been managing/coaching/playing pro ball for over 20 years and my new boss is telling me what to do and he hasn’t coached above the junior college level.” That’s an issue that McKay will need to overcome in March.

It’s another move in what is sure to be a long series of changes which will continue throughout the offseason. It’s a new frontier and we’ll see where it takes us.

Word got out earlier today that Scott Servais will be named manager of the Seattle Mariners, with Tim Bogar joining him as bench coach. The team has yet to confirm, but numerous professional reporters are saying it’s true.

Update: the Mariners confirmed the hire. Scott Servais will meet the media at 10:30 on Monday.

Servais is part of the latest baseball trend: major league managers who have no previous managerial experience. The Cardinals, Rockies, and White Sox have each made similar hires in the last three years with varying degrees of success.

I honestly have no opinion on this hire. There is no track record to look at, he’s never managed a game, and I’ve never met him. All we know is he is Dipoto’s friend from when they both worked for the Angels.

Bogar, the bench coach, has lots of coaching and managerial experience in the majors and minors. That makes for a nice balance.


Have a great weekend!

Rainiers Add Playground & Pitcher

October 20, 2015

Today’s regularly scheduled column has been postponed due to some Rainiers news:

You may have heard by now that the Rainiers have teamed up with the Cheney Foundation and Metro Parks to create a playground and Wiffle ball field at Cheney Stadium. This is scheduled to be ready in April.

It will be placed on the right field side of the ballpark, behind the berm. This area has been underutilized since the 2011 renovation – it’s where the old batting cages were, and the structure of that building was left in place and there were some picnic tables there which had no view of the game. Kind of useless, really.

Now it will be a cool little mini-park which will be open year-round. While lots of the details haven’t been finalized, I’m told that this park will be open year round and free for public use when there is not a Rainiers game going on.

Two other details from short-timing Rainiers spokesman Ben Spradling:

  • Adults will be able to play on the Wiffle ballpark, so round up your friends (what if Metro Parks starts an adult league?).
  • There will be protection from foul balls so kids on the playground aren’t at risk during Rainiers games.

I think it’s a cool idea and can’t wait to see the final product.

We had a roster move on Monday which could impact the 2016 Tacoma Rainiers.

The Mariners claimed right-handed pitcher Cody Martin off waivers from the Oakland A’s, and added him to the 40-man roster.

Martin, 26, is a product of Gonzaga University where he was teammates with current Rainiers/Mariners pitcher Tyler Olson. He’s made 54 Triple-A starts over the past two-and-a-half seasons, going 15-19 with a solid 3.66 ERA. Most of his Triple-A time came with Gwinett in the International League.

Martin made his MLB debut this season, working in 21 games out of the Atlanta bullpen and then appearing in four games for Oakland. He has two option years remaining – making him a strong candidate to appear on the main field at Cheney Stadium next year (as opposed to the Wiffle ball field).

To make room for Martin on the 40-man roster, the Mariners released reliever Logan Kensing. Kensing is now a free agent and can sign with anybody – including the Mariners, who may be interested in re-signing him on a minor league deal. I’m sure Kensing will take his time and try to make a smart choice figuring out which organization will give him the best major league opportunity.


  • We’ll start with The News Tribune’s story on the Wiffle ball field, which includes quotes from Rainiers team president Aaron Artman about kids who “get the crazies.” Aaron has four kids and he is highly knowledgable about this.
  • Ryan Divish has an update on the Mariners manager search.
  • Tom Allison – one of the holdovers from Jack Zduriencik‘s regime – has been promoted to oversee all Mariners scouting under new GM Jerry Dipoto. Bob Dutton’s story on this also includes some other front office and managerial notes.
  • Former Tacoma Rainiers catcher Jason Varitek has been interviewed for the Mariners manager position, Jon Heyman reported.
  • Former Tacoma Tigers pitcher Jeff Jones retired from his position as major league pitching coach for the Detroit Tigers. Jones started 29 games for Tacoma from 1982 to 1984.
  • Ex-Rainiers pitchers Jarrett Grube and Anthony Vazquez made the Team USA roster for an upcoming international tournament in Asia. Current Mariners prospect Tyler O’Neill will play for Team Canada.
  • In the PCL, we have good news from New Orleans where the Zephyrs and the State of Louisiana have agreed to extend their stadium lease through 2020, with hopes for a renovation project in the future.

Check back on Friday for that post I alluded to last time – unless more interesting news breaks out.


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